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How to get rejected by facebook

by Ko Nakatsu

Facebook rejected me for a position a couple years ago.

After six phone interviews, Facebook wanted to challenge me with an exercise. They asked me to create a research plan to improve their “chat”. They gave me 48 hours to respond and said writing the plan should take about 1 to 2 hours.

Any research plan that someone’s spent only an hour or two is gonna be a worthless piece of s. There’s no point in reading or considering some half-assed plan; it’s a waste of a good hour of my time, and five minutes of the reader’s.

I spent all 48 hours writing the plan. An actual plan. On how I’d go about improving their chat. After about 35 hours, there was daylight remaining! I started to conduct the initial research with the remaining time. Might as well. The technical term for this part of the research would be called “talking to people and feeling things out”, which is essentially $0 in logistics cost to conduct. This part of the pre-research saves you tons of time down the line though. It helps build a better hypotheses before you actually do the research.

After I created the report, I sent it off to Facebook. I was promptly rejected. The rejection email had two sentences. No feedback, no comments, no request for clarification. “Thank you for completing the chat exercise. After careful review I wanted to let you know we will not be moving forward with your application.” What!? Seriously? After all that work? How rude.

After using six interviewer’s time before this exercise, you’d think they’d give me a little feedback or give me a sense of what they were looking for. It has to be the quickest weirdest rejection I’ve ever gotten.

When I was rejected by Herman Miller, they gave me a call first, and they also sent me a nice two page personal letter joking about how the ordeal was more intense than the Apprentice (it had come down to me and one other person). When I was in school and got rejected by IDEO, they sent me a nice postcard. Facebook, an impersonal two sentence rejection. I suppose they’re good at the impersonal:P

Anyway, a friend told me it might be interesting to share the actual proposal. It was written and planned in two days with about an hour of sleep. Looking at it now, it IS rather DENSE AS FU$K. But this is what they would seriously need to do (along with a few other things I learned in the last couple of years) to improve that chat. That and a budget of about $500,000 which they can find between their sofa seat cushions in the coffee room.

I was already starting to form my own company, so the rejection was easy to swallow. If you’re ever interested in a job there, don’t do what I did, just do what they asked for:) Spending all that time didn’t meet the objective, but I’m still gonna post it as a sample piece of what I’m capable of though:


Psychiatrists Are My Design Kryptonite

by Ko Nakatsu

I have a superpower. It’s not fancy like flying or invisibility. I can predict the winner of the Bachelor/Bachelorette, well, my pick makes it at least as a second place winner. I’ve guessed correct winners before the first rose ceremony, even right after they come out of the limo… For those of you who don’t know about the Bachelor, it’s a television show on ABC where one guy, one very traditionally sizzling specimen of a man – with an unshaven beard and a cleft chin larger than my biceps – chooses someone he wants to marry out of 25 to 30 women. They go on a series of dates and, we, as the audience watch the cat-fighting and behind-the-back gossip, no doubt prodded by the producers. Hell, that’s the basic design of Reality-Entertainment anyway, throw people in a room and fuck with them. We’ve been doing this for centuries from the Colosseums in Roman times to Haunted Hay Rides. “Design me a way to fuck with them” seems to be the directive from above. This too, is so, with the Bachelor.

Part of my job and past job is to understand people. Understand exactly who they are, get in their heads. Figure out what they want and design it for them. Who are they really? Marketers call them customers, we call them users, psychologist calls them subjects. Ethnographers know that what a person says, and does, doesn’t necessarily define who they actually are. The actualization is in their core values and belief system. At the beginning of each episode they show a montage of the Bachelor’s current life, they’re passions, they’re lifestyle, who he’s looking for. This season’s lucky guy is Brad. Brad’s been on this show before but he’s a changed man from his days as a commitaphobe douchebag! He’s still wealthy, he’s still charming, but this time with psychoanalyzed self-esteem! When we last saw Brad, he’d dumped every single one of the ladies vying for his affection. All 25 of the single ladies. Wallowing in woe-is-me, why-am-I-still-alone-misery, he spent three years in therapy with a psychiatrist, (with a Ph.D even! as repeatedly pointed out in the show). This, is where things get tricky to predict the winner.

Psychiatrists might be good at helping you get over your past, but psychiatrists are bad for business. They make people less predictable, because they give the power of self-awareness. Marketers hire psychologists because they can make assumptions about a group based on experiments. Ethnographers are hired because they can analyze an entire culture. Psychiatrists on the other hand don’t just study people from the outside like psychologists and ethnographers, but they get in there and start rearranging the person’s mind. They’re like the Hunter S. Thompson of the soft sciences. These newly self-aware people are chaotic, they use ‘rationale’ and ‘reason’ to confront their issues. Businesses would rather sell sell sell to sheep sheep sheep. Not that the people I study are sheep, but it is inherently easier to understand a group of people who follow the rules, behave in a socialized normal manner, and are consistent in their actions. It’s easy to design for that. Someone who’s conflicted about who they are from this newly acquired ability to understand themselves, it’s like designing for a person with a split personality disorder. Who knows what you want? Jekyll or Hyde? The new you or the old you?

This season of the Bachelor is all fucked up for me now by that psychiatrist. He’s taken my super power away. Psychiatrists are my design Kryptonite. He’s planted seeds inside of Brad’s mind, as well as made him self aware of his actions. Brad, you were so easy to predict when you were just a self indulgent womanizer that decided with the smallest organ. Last time, you considered my Pick until the bitter end. She was the last person standing out of 25. She was the one! But you dumped her too, and now you’re back on the show with your new ability to psychoanalyze yourself thruoghout the show. After it doesn’t work for you this time though, the third time, when you are truly self-aware, that’s when I can predict the perfect person for you. That’s when I’ll know, that you’re actually just another closet gay Texan.

[If you’re ACTUALLY curious about the winner this time, I picked the Kansas girl as the winner (I don’t remember her name, Lisa? She had red shoes when she entered the house but had white shoes at the end of the show! How odd.). She didn’t even get any air time in the mansion though, and she wasn’t in the season’s previews at the end so I could very well be wrong:( My second place pick was Ashley S who didn’t care he used to be a douchbag and my third place pick was Emily, a sweet southern bell who will probably bail on the show because he’s not ready to take care of her kid. The show also got rid of showing the participant’s age. This is a huge deal. I don’t know the year they were born or their generation. I guess my other kryptonite is the “lack of data”.]

A Million’s a Crowd

by Ko Nakatsu

I wrote this in response to this piece on why crowdfunding is superior to crowdsourcing. It was clearly written by someone who hadn’t participated in these kinds of emerging activities. She rips on crowdsourcing, yet she used Wikipedia, a type of crowdsourcing, to write her article (I checked some of her facts, which were clearly pulled from there.) Here’s my response:

They are two completely different things. The only thing they have in common is that the words start with “crowd”. One isn’t superior over the other. Can’t. They’re different platforms for different people for a different purposes. Apples and oranges. There’s going to be successes in both concepts but those successes are measured by two separate criteria.

It’s the major corporate players trying to participate in social media, save a buck, hop on the trendwagon, and get free press that’s undermining the power of crowdsourcing, as shown by the examples above. Allow me to make my case for crowdsourcing.

Mom-and-pop cupcake shop can’t afford the major firms to develop their branding and ad campaign. They’re not national and the return on a $10,000 logo just doesn’t make sense, whereas a $300 crowdSPRING contest may just do the trick. They may get designs deemed “mediocre” by us elitist designers, but they’re good-enough and work’s just fine, because in the end it’s just how the cupcakes tastes anyway. Before crowdsourcing was invented, the little stores were left to ask their cousin’s daughter who knew how to use MS Paint to make the logo for them. I’ll take “mediocre” over “blindingly bad” any day. Crowdsourcing is great for small businesses.

Crowdfunding at its current state rallies around the individual and is still yet to be a true community, because of it’s tool like function. Threadless who’ve baked crowdsourcing right into their business plan has taken it to a new level by creating a vibrant community. Creating an online community is a challenge and every marketer’s dream/nightmare. Threadless did just that resulting in an annual revenue of $30mil+, 1.5mil+ twitter followers and 220,000 facebook fans. They created a rallying space for comfy cute tshirt lovers. Crowdsourcing can create engaged communities.

Wicked problems are daunting and crowdfunding doesn’t have the confidence yet to tackle those problems. Crowdfunding a million dollars to cure cancer, still isn’t going to cut it, while using the computational power and the time of a million people, might. Wicked problems are just starting to be attempted in a traditional crowdsourcing fashion at places like OpenIdeo. Though it does fall short in some respects with the above mentioned criticism, the confidence is leading to experimentation and they’ve done a great job of tweaking the usual crowdsourcing process by inviting experts to synthesize the creative power of many, releasing it back out, and taking it back in, in an iterative cycle. The experts facilitate the crowd to attempt a solution for problems worth solving. I’m also looking very forward to Jane McGonigals’ Gameful, who recently presented at TED, which uses game mechanics paired with crowdsourcing to solve the Wicked Problems. Crowdsourcing is mature enough to tackle the big problems of the world.

Crowdsourcing builds a great online environment for collaboration, community awareness and engagement. It may not be the next emerging trend, but it’s at a point where it’s evolving at a healthy pace. Both conceptual approaches have their own place and will hopefully evolve in their own way into something even more wonderful.

All Dreams Left to Dream

by Ko Nakatsu

© 2010 Ko Nakatsu

I created this image for a Sustainability competition.

We all have dreams, including future generations. Save the world and give us a chance to follow them

The poster text reads: “Live sustainably so all dreams left to dream, can be. It took thousands of years of dreaming to fly. Oh what freedom it is to ascend to the heavens as mortals, to breathe in the clouds, and to walk amongst rainbows! Our celebration of the possibilities will be cut short without a sustainable world. Sustainability isn’t about you or me. Sustainability is so that the human race can continue to imagine new dreams. The future versions of you and me have dreams we haven’t even thought about about that need to make it real. If we disappear, so do dreams.”

I love airplanes. It’s one of the greatest dreams to become a reality in human history. There are many more dreams that wants to become a reality, tomorrow and a thousand years from now. The designs we bring forth has to be sustainable, if we are to have a future of dreams.

The Image:
I took the airplane photograph at a park near DC airport. The background pattern is the patent image of the Wright Brothers plane stretched out so that it resembles city streets or clouds or whatever you think.

The Process For the Phrase:
I first came up with the following phrase
“Civil Rights took one guy and the will of a society to follow the dream. Sustainability will take one person and the will of the society to follow the dream. Sustainability starts with YOU.”

I shortened it to this:
“Without sustainability, all dreams left to dream, cannot be.”

but wanted a more positive statement so I came up with this:
“Take action, for all dreams left to dream, wants to be.”

which led to
“Live sustainably so all dreams left to dream, can be.”

American Spirit

by Ko Nakatsu

We have a can-do attitude. That anything is possible. Everyone seems to share this belief but not everyone acts on it. Only outlaws and cowboys. Everyone inbetween never takes a risk. Where are the outlaw designers? Where are the cowboy designers?

Understanding Normal

by Ko Nakatsu

The luxury market and comedians have a lot in common. A previous pieces talked about comedians having a sense of hyper-observance of the world, they have a great grasp on reality; The Normal. The luxury owners are similar in that they also understand The Normal. They have to know normal so that they can know the Special. They pride themselves in knowing, understanding, and distinguishing from the norm. Comedians point out the ridiculousness of the Normal, luxury owners reject the Normal, Designers alter the Normal.

Like a newborn infant opening their eyes for the very first time, anyone who commits to becoming a designer must first learn to see Normal. Hyper-observation is the expert skill of a trained designer. They absorb the sensorial-landscape and can recite every detail they see like Jason Bourne. They can look at any human creation and tell you a story of how it came to be. Practicing to see the-way-things-are can help designer propose an alternate future. One that’s better.

Capturing Normal: Learning to see through Photography
The very first assignment that any photography course will give you is to just go shoot. I suggest doing this but only using the viewfinder. It forces you to focus on specific elements of the world around you. You’ll start looking at things like you never noticed before. The second assignment photography classes give you is to shoot from the perspective of highs and lows, the “worms eye view” and the “birds eye view”. This is about perspective. Teaches you to look at things from a “different angle”. Literally. Step 1 helps you pay attention, step 2 helps you look behind the curtain, past the facade.

Replication of Normal: Learning to see through Drawing
Everyone sucks at sketching. At first. But that’s not really the point, to get good. Sketching forces you to stare at something for an extended period of time helps you notice the nuances of a singular object. The thingness. What about the thing you’re drawing expresses it’s existence? What about it tells you that it’s a tree versus a potato. Sketching helps your brain communicate with your hands to replicate that reality. You have to be able to replicate normal before you can change it.

Sensing Normal: Learning to see through Film making
I’m actually really curious about this topic lately as I actually haven’t practiced with this medium enough. (I’ve also been trying to figure out what videocamera to buy if anyone has any advice  ) What I’ve learned so far is that it helps understand the world of Time. It visualizes the passing of time and helps you become aware of every second.

Altering the Normal
Once the practice of photography is mastered, the lessons go further to study studio lighting or altering compositions. With this effect you can create alternate realities, surreal image like Man Ray
to manipulate the perception of reality.

DaVinci got so good at drawing reality that he started to alter that reality with his lesser known pieces, the Grotesque. This skill could be applied to any inanimate thingness that desires to evolve.

Keith Loutit who’s work was chosen to be showcased by the Guggenheim creates film that subtly changes the perception of time by speeding it up, and changes the perception by creating an illusion with the depth of field. He shoots reality and re-represents it through a faux miniature set.

Learning to create, replicate, and sensing normal is the first step in taking that Normal world and designing an alternate.

Break: Germany, Switzerland

by Ko Nakatsu

Will return on November 1.

Off to Germany and then to present at SDN 2010 in Switzerland.

Designers make every moment beautiful

by Ko Nakatsu

We, designers, get caught up in attempting to create something prolific.

… but we help create moments like these. Isn’t that beautiful enough?

Edit Out the Fat

by Ko Nakatsu

Part of the beauty of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa was how they were able to capture moments. On film, it’s a rare skill to capture those everyday moments by clicking on the shutter at precisely the right moment. The invention of photography alone didn’t allow us to capture these moments and stop time forever though. It was a slow evolution. In the early years of photography, daguerreotypes required the subjects to sit still for hours, which is why no one smiles in those photographs. I thought they were just upset about their misery-filled life without iPods and airplanes. With such a slow capture of time, it was difficult to instantly capture moments.

Fast forward to the late 90’s, when we still shot photographs with film, we still took care with every single one of those 36 shots available on a roll:
Compose> Adjust> Focus> Check composition> Focus> Double Check> Recompose> Shoot
Picking up the roll of film after development, the photographs held in your hands, you’d flip through one-by-one-by-one. There were some duds, but every shot was still precious-enough, to grab your attention for a tiny while. Capturing moments was still the skill of masters, ones with the quick finger-eye-shutter-coordination created magnificent works.

Taking one thousand photographs would’ve cost you $300 back then. Previous photographers who could shoot rolls and rolls of film for $0 without limit were photojournalists who were subsidized by their organizations. They weren’t necessarily masters, but increased their chances of capturing the right moment with the increase in volume. Modern day cost of one photograph has been reduced to near $0, like the photojournalists, there’s no reason to stop pressing the camera shutter every second if you want to capture a moment. Mastery of capturing-the-moment has been replaced by the ability to edit-the-content. It’s about being able to sift through the mass quantity of photographs to pick the good-stuff. With this refocus on ‘editing’ as the skilled editors emerges, the standards for the “good-stuff” should increase dramatically. Part of the creative process, especially for designers, will be to develop and highly tune our eye to edit, to find and create the good-stuff, not just the good-enough-stuff.

Dream Enablers

by Ko Nakatsu

Stefan Sagmeister
My friend wanted to quit design. She had a designer’s-block of sorts. So I wrote a letter to Stefan Sagmeister asking him what he does when he has a block. Sagmeister’s one of my design-mentors, only possible in the world of books and the web. I was just a random kid, but he wrote me back a huge long email about what he does when he’s stuck. He gave a reassuring-enthusiasm of the temporary nature of idea-blocks. When you’re young it just seems like those blocks could last forever and it sometimes spirals out of control. I printed out the three page long email and handed it to my friend. She felt really good. Sagmeister’s pretty well known now, speaking at TED, releasing two books, inspiring a whole generation of 3-D real-world typography, but he wrote back anyway to a random student in a random place for a random person.

I saw Stefan Sagmeister on the streets of New York this year, somewhere on the edge of Soho. I’d never seen him in person before, I blurted out “Stefan!” as if I knew him, and he walked over. I really should’ve been the one that walked over. We chatted a little bit about the time I wrote to him. He asked me “… Did I write back?” “Most Certainly” sigh of relief “oh good”.

Scott Summit
I applied to 57 design firms for internships my freshman year and called Summit ID to follow up. “I don’t think I’m going to hire anybody. It’s just me and my dog.”I thought he was a full fledged design firm, with a website more professional than any other design firm and all. After that statement, he spoke to me for an hour. He gave me lessons about portfolio development, following your passion and communicating your work well. Lessons I wouldn’t have learned until my senior year. Random student in a random place just making a call.

I went to San Francisco for an interview at a couple of places senior year, and called him to meet. We sat at a coffeeshop and talked about how he got to where he was today. How the freedom of working for yourself allowed him to go away for a month or two. Go get inspiration and bring it back. Sagmeister does a similar thing where he closes up shop every five/seven years for a whole year.

Summit and Sagmeister both live their dreams, revives that dream, and encourages anyone else to pursue their dreams. Ever since having interacted with them, I committed to help anyone who asks for design advice. Something substantial that they could use. I want to be a dream-enabler like Sagmeister and Summit.